General Mills Fitness Center
Aug 17, 2011 • By

Building a culture of wellness

Employee wellness is a hot topic. In the last week alone, we’ve seen stories highlighting how various companies – like Allstate Insurance and Domino’s Pizza – are implementing programs to encourage employees to be more physically active.

It makes good business sense. In a report, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine says that for every dollar spent on wellness, employers get a return on investment ranging from $2 to $5.

In the wake of rising health care costs, companies from small to large are now embracing the concept of wellness on the job with open arms.

We’re different.

Wellness at General Mills isn’t a fad. It isn’t even new.

What you will learn as you read about wellness at General Mills in the “Life at General Mills” category here on “A Taste of General Mills” is that:

  • General Mills has been doing this for a long time (we had an occupational health clinic in 1956!), and we have a tremendous amount of experience and insights that we use to evolve what we offer as we expand our programs around the globe.
  • The breadth of programs and resources we offer – from on-site medical staff to meditation classes to local, customized wellness programs in our manufacturing communities – is second to none.
  • While the company’s commitment to wellness is global, what we offer and provide differs by employee population. While a “The Biggest Loser”-inspired Waist-O-Weigh competition was a huge hit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa a few years ago, employees in Mumbai have created a wellness program that provides “Health Tune Up” sessions to inspire and educate people on a variety of health topics.

General Mills’ workplace wellness programs officially began more than 25 years ago with the start of the TriHealthalon program for sales employees. At the time, General Mills’ salesforce, like people everywhere, had a high percentage of people who traveled a lot, smoked, didn’t watch their diet, didn’t wear seat belts, and didn’t exercise.

Dr. James L. Craig, then vice president of Health and Human Services, was concerned and sought a solution. He created the TriHealthalon, a wellness program tailored for sales employees based on a friendly competition meant to promote healthy lifestyle changes.  In 2005, a University of Michigan researcher analyzed the changes in health risks for 27 self-selected employees, all of whom had been participating in the TriHealthalon program for 20 years.  Smoking rates dropped from 18 percent to 0 percent in this group, seat belt use increased to 100 percent, and the group reported improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

This initial program, which served as the model for future wellness programs for other employee groups, is still active and strong today and has led to a culture of wellness throughout General Mills.

Today, under the guidance of Dr. Julia Halberg, General Mills offers a broad spectrum of health education and wellness programs, preventive care, medical treatment, and advocacy to employees. In future blogs posts, we’ll bring you stories of programs and events taking place around the world.

Dr. Halberg is a skilled physician, advocate for employees, and the leader of the company’s award-winning wellness and safety efforts worldwide.  I briefly interviewed her and asked her to explain her role and General Mills’ commitment to workplace wellness.

Take a look at what she had to say in this video: